New Paper on Infrastructure and Flood Protection

Today the Mercatus Center released a new paper by Peter Gordon and Richard Little, both of the University of Southern California. The paper, “Building Walls Against Bad Infrastructure
Policy in New Orleans,” is the latest policy primer in the Mercatus Policy Series.

Written as part of the Mercatus Center’s Gulf Coast Recovery Project, Gordon and Little focus on how Louisiana can think more holistically about risk management and disaster mitigation. But the research is germane far beyond the Pelican State and should be a useful tool for any state or local government that relies on levees, floodworks, and other protections against natural disasters. Structural controls are never foolproof, they argue, and along with insurance, risk transfer mechanisms, and redundant defenses, are only part of a larger system to mitigate against natural disasters.

In the paper, Gordon and Little suggest how the private sector can be better involved in mitigation against disaster and how this should inform state and local governments:

As New Orleans rebuilds from the damage of Hurricane Katrina, local and national policy makers are attempting to ensure the levees are rebuilt better and stronger. While such efforts to ensure more reliable flood protection are certainly understandable given the region’s history, they should not preclude serious consideration of the implications of excessive reliance on structural controls. More comprehensive approaches will provide decision makers at all levels—from elected officials to individual homeowners—with incentives to manage flood risk effectively.

Read the whole thing here.